FACE-TO-FACE: Bill Hanbury, CEO, Bermuda Tourism Authority

How is Bermuda performing in terms of UK visitor numbers? What are the projections for 2015? 

Bermuda expects 35,000 British tourists to visit in 2015.
Bermuda expects 35,000 British tourists to visit in 2015.

20,000-25,000 British people visit Bermuda each year. That’s around 10% of our visitor market. Projections for 2015 are looking good. We expect over 35,000 people to visit connected with the America’s Cup over the next two years.

 

What’s driving demand?

There is a new energy and excitement around Bermuda, which is attracting a new generation of traveller who loves to explore and experience the holiday destination. The 21 square mile island is a proper playground for active travellers of all ages.

We are creating fresh marketing partnerships. For example, we recently ran a major joint campaign with Expedia featuring interactive outdoor, online, and social media and also took part in their beaches sale campaign. We are currently partnering with the Henri Lloyd and Kurt Geiger fashion brands for highly targeted consumer promotions in the UK market.

Travel trade engagement and joint promotions are on-going. We are planning to further engage with our tour operator and travel agent partners in the UK to raise awareness of the range of activities Bermuda has to offer, particularly to the adventure and experience seekers.  We are already running initiatives with tour operators such as Elegant Resorts and Hayes & Jarvis – which includes direct mailings and emails to customers, as well as joint press trips and social media campaigns.

We have been providing destination training with UK tour operators and travel agencies over the last few months including BA Holidays, Hayes and Jarvis & Classic Collection. An even wider programme is planned going forward including agent roadshows with Prestige Holidays and this summer Hayes & Jarvis has expanded its portfolio of Bermuda products.

In addition, three new tour operators will be introducing Bermuda for the first time in their 2016 programmes. Unfortunately I’m not in a position to divulge further details at this stage.

 

Bermuda is blessed with stunning coastline.
Bermuda is blessed with stunning coastline.

How will the exposure from the America’s Cup World Series help promote Bermuda?

For more than four centuries the mystic of Bermuda has been evolving, with each generation adding its own contribution. Now there is a new generation of Bermudians ready to write the island’s next chapter. There is also a new generation of sailors and designers doing the same for the sport of sailing and the America’s Cup. The America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) in Portsmouth recently shone a bright light on sailing, Portsmouth and Bermuda.

Despite the British weather disrupting one of the race days, it gave us a great opportunity to engage with over 140,000 people who came to Portsmouth over the four days, as well as the tens of thousands who followed the racing in the media.

We invited trade partners to join us, to find out more about Bermuda and our America’s Cup partners, as well as enjoy the racing action. We also hosted an interactive stand in the Fanzone area to engage with potential travellers.

Over the next two years the ACWS events around the world, and again in Portsmouth in July 2016, will not only entice people to come to Bermuda to watch two fantastic festivals of sailing (ACWS event in October 2015 and America’s Cup in June 2017). The events will also engage a wider audience, generating new interest in sailing and of course Bermuda is the best place in the world to sail!

But its impact goes beyond sailing, the America’s Cup legacy brings with it investment and will ultimately provide greater choice and availability of hotels, accommodation, infrastructure, activities and entertainment for our visitors.

The America’s Cup World Series has given us a great platform to showcase Bermuda as a quality, authentic and exciting destination to an audience who may not have considered Bermuda as a holiday destination previously. We are also aiming to educate the public on Bermuda’s location, accessibility (direct flight from Gatwick and only seven hours away), authentic experiences and diverse range of activities.

 

With the finals of the event taking place in Bermuda in 2017, how do you intend to capitalise on the coverage this will generate, with all eyes on Bermuda and what do you think will be the impact on tourism?

The Bermuda Tourism Authority is expecting a positive and considerable impact on tourism during and after the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup 2017. We have established a group called ACBDA (America’s Cup Bermuda) and this is acting as the host committee for the 35th America’s Cup.  Team bases are already being erected, hotels are being renovated and new ones built, new sailing experiences are coming online. Anyone coming to Bermuda in the next few years is going to feel the influence of these amazing events.

 

What’s different about Bermuda and what types of travellers does it suit and why?

The town of St. Georges is a popular tourist destination.
The town of St. Georges is a popular tourist destination.

Bermuda is a welcoming, accessible and authentic island experience. We like to say Bermuda is built for travellers, not tourists. There is only one all-inclusive hotel, meaning visitors who come tend to prefer independent adventures. We have some wonderful local experiences for visitors to enjoy, such as ‘Catch and Cook’, fishing with local fishermen and dining with them at their family home. It suits the experience seeker and the adventure seeker perfectly. Not least, because we have such a wide range of active sports on and off water for people to enjoy, but also as there are no hire cars allowed, people really can explore like a local; on foot, by bicycle or on public transport. The Bermudians are very friendly people, from customer feedback we’ve received, even getting on the bus and chatting with the locals whilst enjoying the ride is a welcome exchange and a nice addition to people’s holidays.

 

What’s your strategy for improving visibility of Bermuda in the UK and therefore, boosting sales?

The platform of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup and the ACWS over the next two years heralds the next generation of sailing into a more far-reaching and inclusive sport. Bermuda is aligning these developments with our own next chapter. Our strategy is tied to this as we continue our brand partnerships in the UK, improving our visibility to the right target audiences.

We are working with our ever-expanding group of tour operator and travel agent partners to create a diverse range of packages, combining with activities like sailing.  We will continue to develop training for our trade partners and demonstrate what Bermuda has to offer.

We are also work with travel and lifestyle traditional and non-traditional media for editorial and marketing opportunities, to tell our evolving story.

 

What role does the travel trade play in this strategy and what initiatives and incentives do you have planned to get the trade on board?

The trade are an invaluable partner, selling, supporting and ultimately distributing our product. We are continuing to further develop relationships with travel trade partners.

We are taking an integrated approach, combining consumer communications through co-op marketing partnerships.

We regularly meet with all operators and retailers featuring Bermuda to gather feedback, share our news and latest developments.

We are running a five-day, mega-fam in September with around 30 travel agents and will be inviting product manager’s out to attend our tourism summit in November.

 

If you could give five top selling points for Bermuda, what would they be?

  1. An active destination, on land and in the water. Bermuda’s crystal clear turquoise waters offer a wide array of under and above water adventures. As the ‘Shipwreck Dive Capital of the World’ the reefs and wreck sites (over 300) surrounding our island are thriving with marine life. This amazing underwater world is also available to non-scuba explorers too. Thanks to our shallow waters, awesome snorkelling over reefs and wrecks is within easy reach of the shore. This is in addition to fantastic sailing and water sports such as jet-skiing, stand up paddle-boarding, hydro-biking, kayaking or fly-boarding. On land, visitors can explore our lush sub-tropical gardens, historic trails, stunning pink sand beaches and spectacular coves, by bike or on foot. Most of these hidden treasures are connected by the Old Railway Trail, spanning the length of the island.
  1. An authentic destination. Our welcoming local culture and almost zero  commercialisation (global brands) means we nurture independent, local retailers and have introduced a range of experiences, such as fishing, cooking or dining with local families to enable visitors to enjoy a genuine taste of island life.
  2. A mid-haul destination. Bermuda is much closer to the UK than people think. Not in the Caribbean as many presume, we are in fact 800 miles south east of New York in the Atlantic. Just over 7 hours on a direct flight, with British Airways from Gatwick.
  3. Beautiful year-round climate. Due to our position in the Gulf Stream, we have a temperate, sunny, sub-tropical climate throughout the year.
  4. Our friendly people. Bermuda enjoys a laid-back island vibe that is communicated through its people, nothing is too much trouble and we’re always happy to help or just chat!
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